City of Heavenly Fire – Chapter 16: THE TERRORS OF THE EARTH

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Night had fallen over Alicante, and the stars shone down like bright sentinels, making the demon towers, and the water in the canals—half ice now—shimmer. Emma sat on the windowsill of the twins’ bedroom and looked out over the city. Emma had always thought she would come to Alicante for the first time with her parents, that her mother would show her the places she had known growing up, the now-closed Academy where her mother had gone to school, her grandparents’ house. That her father would show her the monument to the Carstairs family he always spoke of proudly. She’d never imagined she would first look on the demon towers of Alicante with her heart so swelled up with grief that sometimes it felt like it was choking her. Moonlight spilled in through the attic windows, illuminating the twins. Tiberius had spent the day in a vicious tantrum, kicking the bars of the baby’s crib when he was told he couldn’t leave the house, shrieking for Mark when Julian tried to calm him down, and finally smashing his fist through a glass jewelry box. He was too young for healing runes, so Livvy had wrapped her arms around him to keep him still while Julian picked the glass out of his younger brother’s bloody hand with tweezers, and then carefully bandaged it. Ty had collapsed into bed finally, though he hadn’t slept until Livvy, as calm as always, had lain down beside him and put her hand over his bandaged one. He was asleep now, head on the pillow, turned toward his sister. It was only when Ty was sleeping that you could see how uncommonly beautiful a child he was, with his head of dark Botticelli curls and delicate features, anger and despair smoothed away by exhaustion. Despair, Emma thought. It was the right word, for the loneliness in Tavvy’s screaming, for the emptiness at the heart of Ty’s anger and Livvy’s eerie calm. No one who was ten should feel despair, but she supposed there was no other way to describe the words that pulsed through her blood when she thought of her parents, every heartbeat a mournful litany: Gone, gone, gone. “Hey. ” Emma looked up at the sound of a quiet voice from the doorway, and saw Julian standing at the entrance to the room. His own dark curls, shades lighter than Ty’s black, were tousled, and his face was pale and tired in the moonlight. He looked skinny, thin wrists protruding from the cuffs of his sweater. He was holding something furry in his hand. “Are they . . . ” Emma nodded. “Asleep. Yeah. ” Julian stared at the twins’ bed. Up close Emma could see Ty’s bloody handprints on Jules’s shirt; he hadn’t had time to change his clothes. He was clutching a large stuffed bee that Helen had retrieved from the Institute when the Clave had gone back to search the place. It had been Tiberius’s for as long as Emma could remember. Ty had been screaming for it before he’d fallen asleep. Julian crossed the room and bent down to tuck it against his little brother’s chest, then paused to gently untangle one of Ty’s curls before he drew back. Emma took his hand as he moved it, and he let her. His skin was cold, as if he’d been leaning out the window into the night air. She turned his hand and drew with her finger on the skin of his forearm. It was something they’d done since they were small children and didn’t want to get caught talking during lessons. Over the years they’d gotten so good at it that they could map out detailed messages on each other’s hands, arms, even their shoulders through their T-shirts. D-I-D Y-O-U E-A-T? she spelled out. Julian shook his head, still staring at Livvy and Ty. His curls were sticking up in tufts as if he’d been raking his hands through his hair. She felt his fingers, light on her upper arm. N-O-T H-U-N-G-R-Y. “Too bad. ” Emma slid off the windowsill. “Come on. ” She shooed him out of the room, onto the hallway landing. It was a small space, with a steep set of stairs descending into the main house. The Penhallows had made it clear the children were welcome to food whenever they wanted it, but there were no set mealtimes, and certainly no family meals. Everything was eaten hastily at tables in the attic, with Tavvy and even Dru covering themselves in food, and only Jules responsible for cleaning them up afterward, for washing their clothes, and even for making sure they ate at all. The moment the door closed behind them, Julian slumped against the wall, tipping his head back, his eyes closed. His thin chest rose and fell quickly under his T-shirt. Emma hung back, unsure what to do. “Jules?” she said. He looked toward her. His eyes were dark in the low light, fringed by thick lashes. She could tell that he was fighting not to cry. Julian was part of Emma’s earliest memories. They had been put in cribs together as babies by their parents; apparently she had crawled out, and bitten through her lip when she’d hit the ground. She hadn’t cried, but Julian had screamed at the sight of her bleeding, until their parents had come running. They had taken their first steps together: Emma first as always, Julian afterward, hanging determinedly on to her hand. They had started training at the same time, had gotten their first runes together: Voyance on his right hand and on her left. Julian never wanted to lie, but if Emma was in trouble, Julian lied for her. Now they had lost their parents together. Julian’s mother had died two years before, and watching the Blackthorns go through that loss had been terrible, but this was a different experience altogether. It was shattering, and Emma could feel the breakage, could feel them coming apart and being glued back together in a new and different way. They were becoming something else, she and Julian, something that was more than best friends but not family, either. “Jules,” she said again, and took his hand. For a moment it lay, still and cold, in hers; then he seized her wrist and gripped it tightly. “I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I can’t take care of them. Tavvy’s just a baby, Ty hates me—” “He’s your brother. And he’s only ten. He doesn’t hate you. ” Julian took a shuddering breath. “Maybe. ” “They’ll figure something out,” Emma said. “Your uncle lived through the London attack. So when this is all over, you’ll move in with him, and he’ll look after you and the others. It won’t be your responsibility. ” Julian shrugged. “I barely remember Uncle Arthur. He sends us books in Latin; sometimes he comes from London for Christmas. The only one of us who can read Latin is Ty, and he just learned it to annoy everyone. ” “So he gives bad gifts. He remembered you at Christmas. He cares enough to take care of you. They won’t have to just send you to a random Institute or to Idris—” Julian swung around to face her. “That’s not what you think is going to happen to you, is it?” he demanded. “Because it won’t. You’ll stay with us. ” “Not necessarily,” Emma said. She felt as if her heart were being squeezed. The thought of leaving Jules, Livvy, Dru, Tavvy—even Ty—made her feel sick and lost, like she was being swept out into the ocean, alone. “It depends on your uncle, doesn’t it? Whether he wants me in the Institute. Whether he’s willing to take me in. ” Julian’s voice was fierce. Julian was rarely fierce, but when he was, his eyes went nearly black and he shook all over, as if he were freezing. “It’s not up to him. You’re going to stay with us. ” “Jules—” Emma began, and froze as voices drifted up from downstairs. Jia and Patrick Penhallow were passing through the corridor below. She wasn’t sure why she was nervous; it wasn’t as if they weren’t allowed full run of the house, but the idea of being caught wandering around this late at night by the Consul made her feel awkward. “. . . smirking little bastard was right, of course,” Jia was saying. She sounded frayed. “Not only are Jace and Clary gone, but Isabelle and Alec along with them. The Lightwoods are absolutely frantic. ” Patrick’s deep voice rumbled an answer. “Well, Alec is an adult, technically. Hopefully he’s looking after the rest of them. ” Jia made a muffled, impatient noise in response. Emma leaned forward, trying to hear her. “. . . could have left a note at least,” she was saying. “They were clearly furious when they fled. ” “They probably thought we were going to deliver them to Sebastian. ” Jia sighed. “Ironic, considering how hard we fought against that. We assume Clary made a Portal to get them out of here, but as to how they’ve blocked us from tracking them, we don’t know. They’re nowhere on the map. It’s like they disappeared off the face of the earth. ” “Just like Sebastian has,” said Patrick. “Doesn’t it make sense to assume they’re wherever he is? That the place itself is shielding them, not runes or some other kind of magic?” Emma leaned farther forward, but the rest of their words faded with distance. She thought she heard a mention of the Spiral Labyrinth, but she wasn’t positive. When she straightened up again, she saw Julian looking at her. “You know where they are,” he said, “don’t you?” Emma put her finger to her lips and shook her head. Don’t ask. Julian huffed out a laugh. “Only you. How did you—No, don’t tell me, I don’t even want to know. ” He looked at her searchingly, the way he did sometimes when he was trying to tell if she was lying or not. “You know,” he said, “there’s a way they couldn’t send you away from our Institute. They’d have to let you stay. ” Emma raised an eyebrow. “Let’s hear it, genius. ” “We could—” he started, then stopped, swallowed, and started again. “We could become parabatai. ” He said it shyly, half-turning his face away from her, so that the shadows partially hid his expression. “Then they couldn’t separate us,” he added. “Not ever. ” Emma felt her heart turn over. “Jules, being parabatai is a big deal,” she said. “It’s—it’s forever. ” He looked at her, his face open and guileless. There was no trickery in Jules, no darkness. “Aren’t we forever?” he asked. Emma thought. She couldn’t imagine her life without Julian. It was just a sort of black hole of terrible loneliness: nobody ever understanding her the way he did, getting her jokes the way he did, protecting her the way he did—not protecting her physically but protecting her feelings, her heart. No one to be happy with or angry with or bounce ridiculous ideas off. No one to complete her sentences, or pick all the cucumbers out of her salad because she hated them, or eat the crusts off her toast, or find her keys when she lost them. “I—” she began, and there was a sudden crash from the bedroom. She exchanged panicked looks with Julian before they burst back into Ty and Livvy’s room, to find Livia sitting up on the bed, looking sleepy and puzzled. Ty was at the window, a poker in his hand. The window had a hole punched through the middle of it, and the window glass was glittering across the floor. “Ty!” Julian said, clearly terrified by the shards piled around his little brother’s bare feet. “Don’t move. I’ll get a broom for the glass—” Ty glared out at both of them from beneath his wild dark hair. He held up something in his right hand. Emma squinted in the moonlight—was it an acorn? “It’s a message,” Ty said, letting the poker drop from his hand. “Faeries often choose objects from the natural world to send their messages in—acorns, leaves, flowers. ” “You’re saying that’s a message from faeries?” Julian said dubiously. “Don’t be stupid,” said Tiberius. “Of course it’s not a message from faeries. It’s a message from Mark. And it’s addressed to the Consul. ” It must be daytime here, Luke thought, for Raphael was curled in one corner of the stone room, his body tense even in sleep, his dusky curls pillowed on his arm. It was hard to tell, given that there was little to see beyond the window but thick mist. “He needs to feed,” Magnus said, looking at Raphael with a tense gentleness that surprised Luke. He hadn’t thought there was much love lost between the warlock and the vampire. They had circled each other as long as he had known them, polite, occupying their different spheres of power within the Downworld of New York City. “You know each other,” Luke said, realizing. He was still leaning against the wall by the narrow stone window, as if the view outside—clouds and yellowish poison—could tell him anything. Magnus raised an eyebrow, the way he did when someone asked an obviously stupid question. “I mean,” Luke clarified, “you knew each other. Before. ” “Before what? Before you were born? Let me make something clear to you, werewolf; almost everything in my life happened before you were born. ” Magnus’s eyes lingered on the sleeping Raphael; despite the sharpness in his tone, his expression was almost gentle. “Fifty years ago,” he said, “in New York, a woman came to me and asked me to save her son from a vampire. ” “And the vampire was Raphael?” “No,” said Magnus. “Her son was Raphael. I couldn’t save him. It was too late. He was already Turned. ” He sighed, and in his eyes suddenly Luke saw his great, great age, the wisdom and sorrow of centuries. “The vampire had killed all his friends. I don’t know why he Turned Raphael instead. He saw something in him. Will, strength, beauty. I don’t know. He was a child when I found him, a Caravaggio angel painted in blood. ” “He still looks like a child,” said Luke. Raphael had always reminded him of a choirboy gone bad, with his sweet young face and his black eyes older than the moon. “Not to me,” said Magnus. He sighed. “I hope he survives this,” he said. “The New York vampires need someone with sense to run their clan, and Maureen’s hardly that. ” “You hope Raphael survives this?” Luke said. “Come on—how many people has he killed?” Magnus turned cold eyes on him. “Who among us has bloodless hands? What did you do, Lucian Graymark, to gain yourself a pack—two packs—of werewolves?” “That was different. That was necessary. ” “What did you do when you were in the Circle?” Magnus demanded. At that, Luke was silent. Those were days he hated to think about. Days of blood and silver. Days of Valentine by his side, telling him everything was all right, silencing his conscience. “I’m worried about my family now,” he said. “I’m worried about Clary and Jocelyn and Amatis. I can’t worry about Raphael, too. And you—I thought you’d be worried about Alec. ” Magnus breathed out through gritted teeth. “I don’t want to talk about Alec. ” “All right. ” Luke said nothing else, just rested against the cold stone wall and watched Magnus fiddle with his chains. A moment later Magnus spoke again. “Shadowhunters,” he said. “They get in your blood, under your skin. I’ve been with vampires, werewolves, faeries, warlocks like me—and humans, so many fragile humans. But I always told myself I wouldn’t give my heart to a Shadowhunter. I’ve so nearly loved them, been charmed by them—generations of them, sometimes: Edmund and Will and James and Lucie . . . the ones I saved and the ones I couldn’t. ” His voice choked off for a second, and Luke, staring in amazement, realized that this was the most of Magnus Bane’s real, true emotions that he had ever seen. “And Clary, too, I loved, for I watched her grow up. But I’ve never been in love with a Shadowhunter, not until Alec. For they have the blood of angels in them, and the love of angels is a high and holy thing. ” “Is that so bad?” Luke asked. Magnus shrugged. “Sometimes it comes down to a choice,” he said. “Between saving one person and saving the whole world. I’ve seen it happen, and I’m selfish enough to want the person who loves me to choose me. But Nephilim will always choose the world. I look at Alec and I feel like Lucifer in Paradise Lost. ‘Abashed the Devil stood, And felt how awful goodness is. ’ He meant it in the classic sense. ‘Awful’ as in inspiring awe. And awe is well and good, but it’s poison to love. Love has to be between equals. ” “He’s just a boy,” said Luke. “Alec—he’s not perfect. And you’re not fallen. ” “We’re all fallen,” said Magnus, and he wrapped himself up in his chains and was silent. “You have got to be kidding me,” Maia said. “Here? Seriously?” Bat rubbed his fingers over the back of his neck, ruffling up his short hair. “Is that a Ferris wheel?” Maia turned around in a slow circle. They were standing inside the darkened massive Toys“R”Us on Forty-Second Street. Outside the windows the neon glow of Times Square lit the night with blue, red, and green. The store stretched upward, level on level of toys: bright plastic superheroes, plush stuffed bears, pink and glittery Barbies. The Ferris wheel rose above them, each metal strut carrying a dangling plastic carriage decorated with decals. Maia had a dim memory of her mother taking her and her brother to ride on the wheel when they were ten years old. Daniel had tried to push Maia over the edge and had made her cry. “This is . . . crazy,” she whispered. “Maia. ” It was one of the younger wolves, skinny and nervous, with dreadlocks. Maia had worked to cure them all of the habit of calling her “lady” or “madam” or anything else but Maia, even if she was temporary pack leader. “We’ve swept the place. If there were security guards, someone’s taken them out already. ” “Great. Thanks. ” Maia looked at Bat, who shrugged. There were about fifteen other pack wolves with them, looking incongruous among the Disney princess dolls and stuffed reindeer. “Could you—” The Ferris wheel started up suddenly with a screech and a groan. Maia jumped back, almost knocking into Bat, who took her by the shoulders. They both stared as the wheel started to turn and music began to play—“It’s a Small World,” Maia was pretty sure, though there were no words, just tinny instrumentals. “Wolves! Oooh! Wooolves!” sang out a voice, and Maureen, looking like a Disney princess in a pink gown and a rainbow tiara, tripped barefoot out from a stacked display of candy canes. She was followed by about twenty vamps, as pale-faced as dolls or mannequins in the sickly light. Lily strode just behind her, her black hair pinned back perfectly, her heels clicking on the floor. She looked Maia up and down as if she’d never seen her before. “Hello, hello!” Maureen burbled. “I’m so glad to meet you. ” “Glad to meet you as well,” Maia said stiffly. She put a hand out for Maureen to shake, but Maureen just giggled and seized up a sparkly wand from a nearby carton. She waved it in the air. “So sorry to hear about Sebastian killing all your wolfie friends,” Maureen said. “He’s a nasty boy. ” Maia flinched at a vision of Jordan’s face, the memory of the heavy, helpless weight of him in her arms. She steeled herself. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” she said. “Sebastian. He’s trying to threaten Downworlders. . . . ” She paused as Maureen, humming, began to climb to the top of a stack of boxes of Christmas Barbies, each one dressed in a red-and-white Santa miniskirt. “Trying to get us to turn against the Shadowhunters,” Maia went on, slightly flummoxed. Was Maureen even paying attention? “If we unite . . . ” “Oh, yes,” Maureen said, perching atop the highest box. “We should unite against Shadowhunters. Definitely. ” “No, I said—” “I heard what you said. ” Maureen’s eyes flashed. “It was silly. You werewolves are always full of silly ideas. Sebastian isn’t very nice, but the Shadowhunters are worse. They make up stupid rules and they make us follow them. They steal from us. ” “Steal?” Maia craned her head back to see Maureen. “They stole Simon from me. I had him, and now he’s gone. I know who took him. Shadowhunters. ” Maia met Bat’s eyes. He was staring. She realized she’d forgotten to tell him about Maureen’s crush on Simon. She’d have to catch him up later—if there was a later. The vampires behind Maureen were looking more than a little hungry. “I asked you to come meet me so that we could form an alliance,” Maia said, as gently as if she were trying not to spook an animal. “I love alliances,” said Maureen, and she hopped down from the top of the boxes. Somewhere she’d gotten hold of an enormous lollipop, the kind with multicolored swirls. She began to peel off the wrapping. “If we form an alliance, we can be part of the invasion. ” “The invasion?” Maia raised her eyebrows. “Sebastian’s going to invade Idris,” Maureen said, dropping the plastic wrap. “He’ll fight them and he’ll win, and then we’ll divide up the world, all of us, and he’ll give us all the people we want to eat. . . . ” She bit down on the lollipop, and made a face. “Ugh. Nasty. ” She spit out the candy, but it had already painted her lips red and blue. “I see,” Maia said. “In that case—absolutely, let us ally against the Shadowhunters. ” She felt Bat tense at her side. “Maia—” Maia ignored him, stepping forward. She offered her wrist. “Blood binds an alliance,” she said. “So say the old laws. Drink my blood to seal our compact. ” “Maia, no,” Bat said; she shot him a quelling look. “This is how it has to be done,” Maia said. Maureen was grinning. She tossed aside the candy; it shattered on the floor. “Oh, fun,” she said. “Like blood sisters. ” “Just like that,” said Maia, bracing herself as the younger girl took hold of her arm. Maureen’s small fingers interlaced with hers. They were cold and sticky with sugar. There was a click as Maureen’s fang teeth snapped out. “Just like—” Maureen’s teeth sank into Maia’s wrist. She was making no effort to be gentle: pain lanced up Maia’s arm, and she gasped. The wolves behind her stirred uneasily. She could hear Bat, breathing hard with the effort not to lunge at Maureen and tear her away. Maureen swallowed, smiling, her teeth still firmly seated in Maia’s arm. The blood vessels in Maia’s arm throbbed with pain; she met Lily’s eyes over Maureen’s head. Lily smiled coldly. Maureen gagged suddenly and pulled away. She put a hand to her mouth; her lips were swelling, like someone who’d had an allergic reaction to bee stings. “Hurts,” she said, and then fissuring cracks spread out from her mouth, across her face. Her body spasmed. “Mama,” she whispered in a small voice, and she began to crumble: Her hair drifted to ashes, and then her skin, peeling away to show the bones underneath. Maia stepped back, her wrist throbbing, as Maureen’s dress folded away to the ground, pink and sparkling and . . . empty. “Holy—What happened?” Bat demanded, and caught Maia as she stumbled. Her torn wrist was already beginning to heal, but she felt a little dizzy. The wolf pack was murmuring around her. More disturbing, the vampires had come together, whispering, their pale faces venomous, full of hate. “What did you do?” demanded one of them, a blond boy, in a shrill voice. “What did you do to our leader?” Maia stared at Lily. The other girl’s expression was cool and blank. For the first time Maia felt a thread of panic unfurl beneath her rib cage. Lily . . . “Holy water,” said Lily. “In her veins. She put it there with a syringe, earlier, so Maureen would be poisoned with it. ” The blond vampire bared his teeth, his fangs snapping into place. “Betrayal has consequences,” he said. “Werewolves—” “Stop,” Lily said. “She did it because I asked her to. ” Maia exhaled, almost surprised by the relief that hit her. Lily was looking around at the other vampires, who were staring at her in confusion. “Sebastian Morgenstern is our enemy, as he is the enemy of all Downworlders,” Lily said. “If he destroys the Shadowhunters, the next thing he will do is turn his attention on us. His army of Endarkened warriors would murder Raphael and then lay waste to all the Night’s Children. Maureen would never have seen that. She would have driven us all to our destruction. ” Maia shook out her wrist, and turned to the pack. “Lily and I agreed,” she said. “This was the only way. The alliance between us, that was sincere. Now is our chance, when Sebastian’s armies are at their smallest and the Shadowhunters are still powerful; now is the time we can make a difference. Now is the time we can revenge those who died at the Praetor. ” “Who’s going to lead us?” whined the blond vampire. “The one who kills the previous leader takes up the mantle of leadership, but we can’t be led by a werewolf. ” He glanced at Maia. “No offense. ” “None taken,” she muttered. “I am the one who killed Maureen,” said Lily. “Maia was the weapon I wielded, but it was my plan, my hand behind it. I will lead. Unless anyone objects. ” The vampires glanced around at one another in confusion. Bat, to Maia’s surprise and amusement, cracked his knuckles loudly in the silence. Lily’s red lips curved. “I didn’t think so. ” She took a step toward Maia, daintily avoiding the tulle dress and pile of ashes that were all that was left of Maureen. “Now,” she said. “Why don’t we discuss this alliance?”

“I did not make a pie,” Alec announced when Jace and Clary returned to the large central chamber of the cave. He was lying on his back, on an unrolled blanket, with his head pillowed on a wadded-up jacket. There was a fire smoking in the pit, the flames casting elongated shadows against the walls. He had spread out provisions: bread and chocolate, nuts and granola bars, water and bruised apples. Clary felt her stomach tighten, realizing only then how hungry she was. There were three plastic bottles next to the food: two of water, and a darker one of wine. “I did not make a pie,” Alec repeated, gesturing expressively with one hand, “for three reasons. One, because I do not have any pie ingredients. Two, because I don’t actually know how to make a pie. ” He paused, clearly waiting. Removing his sword and leaning it against the cave wall, Jace said warily, “And three?” “Because I am not your bitch,” Alec said, clearly pleased with himself. Clary couldn’t help but smile. She undid her weapons belt and laid it down carefully by the wall; Jace, unbuckling his own, rolled his eyes. “You know that wine is supposed to be for antiseptic purposes,” Jace said, sprawling elegantly on the ground next to Alec. Clary sat beside him. Every muscle in her body protested—even months of training hadn’t prepared her for the day’s draining trek across the burning sand. “There’s not enough alcohol in wine to be able to use it for antiseptic purposes,” said Alec. “Besides, I’m not drunk. I’m contemplative. ” “Right. ” Jace swiped an apple, sliced it expertly in two, and offered half to Clary. She took a bite of the fruit, remembering. Their first kiss had tasted of apples. “So,” she said. “What are you contemplating?” “What’s going on at home,” Alec said. “Now that they’ve probably noticed we’re gone and all that. I feel bad about Aline and Helen. I would have liked to warn them. ” “You don’t feel bad about your parents?” Clary said. “No,” Alec said after a long pause. “They had their chance to do the right thing. ” He rolled onto his side and looked at them. His eyes were very blue in the firelight. “I always thought being a Shadowhunter meant that I had to approve of what the Clave did,” he said. “I thought otherwise I wasn’t loyal. I made excuses for them. I always have. But I feel like whenever we have to fight, we’re fighting a war on two fronts. We fight the enemy and we fight the Clave, too. I don’t—I just don’t know how I feel anymore. ” Jace smiled at him fondly across the fire. “Rebel,” he said. Alec made a face and levered himself up onto his elbows. “Don’t make fun of me,” he snapped, with enough force that Jace looked surprised. Jace’s expressions were unreadable to most people, but Clary knew him well enough to recognize the quick flash of hurt across his face, and the anxiety as he leaned forward to reply to Alec—just as Isabelle and Simon burst into the room. Isabelle looked flushed, but in the manner of someone who had been running rather than someone who had been giving in to passion. Poor Simon, Clary thought with amusement—amusement that vanished almost instantly when she saw the looks on their faces. “The east corridor ends in a door,” Isabelle said without preamble. “A gate, like the one we came in through, but it’s broken. And there are demons, the flying kind. They’re not coming near here, but you can see them. Someone should probably keep watch, just to be safe. ” “I’ll do it,” Alec said, standing up. “I’m not going to sleep anyway. ” “Me neither. ” Jace scrambled to his feet. “Besides, someone should keep you company. ” He looked at Clary, who offered an encouraging smile. She knew Jace hated it when Alec was angry at him. She wasn’t sure if he could feel the discord through the parabatai bond or if it was just ordinary empathy, or a little of both. “There are three moons,” Isabelle said and sat down by the food, reaching for a granola bar. “And Simon thought he saw a city. A demon city. ” “I wasn’t sure,” Simon added quickly. “In the books Edom has a capital, called Idumea,” said Alec. “There could be something. We’ll keep an eye out. ” He bent to retrieve his bow and started off down the east corridor. Jace retrieved a seraph blade, kissed Clary quickly, and headed after him; Clary settled down on her side, staring into the fire, letting the soft murmur of Isabelle and Simon’s conversation lull her to sleep. Jace felt the sinews in his back and neck crack with exhaustion as he lowered himself down among the rocks, sliding back until he was sitting with his back to one of the larger ones, trying not to breathe too deeply in the bitter air. He heard Alec settle beside him, the rough material of his gear scratching against the ground. Moonlight sparked off his bow as he laid it across his lap and looked out over the landscape. The three moons hung low in the sky; each fragment looked bloated and enormous, the color of wine, and they tinged the landscape with their bloody glow. “Are you going to talk?” Jace asked. “Or is this one of those times where you’re mad at me so you don’t say anything?” “I’m not mad at you,” Alec said. He ran a leather-gauntleted hand over his bow, idly tapping his fingers against the wood. “I thought you might be,” Jace said. “If I’d agreed to look for shelter, I wouldn’t have been attacked. I put us all in danger—” Alec took a deep breath and let it out slowly. The moons had inched slightly higher in the sky, and they cast their dark glow across his face. He looked young, with his hair dirty and tangled, his shirt torn. “We knew the risks we were taking coming here with you. We signed up to die. I mean, obviously I’d rather survive. But we all chose. ” “The first time you saw me,” Jace said, looking down at his hands, looped around his knees, “I bet you didn’t think, He’s going to get me killed. ” “The first time I saw you, I wished you’d go back to Idris. ” Jace looked over at Alec incredulously; Alec shrugged. “You know I don’t like change. ” “I grew on you, though,” Jace stated confidently. “Eventually,” Alec agreed. “Like moss, or a skin disease. ” “You love me. ” Jace leaned his head back against the rock, looking out across the dead landscape through tired eyes. “You think we should have left a note for Maryse and Robert?” Alec laughed dryly. “I think they’ll figure out where we went. Eventually. Maybe I don’t care if Dad ever figures it out. ” Alec threw his head back and sighed. “Oh, God, I’m a cliché,” he said in despair. “Why do I care? If Dad decides he hates me because I’m not straight, he’s not worth the pain, right?” “Don’t look at me,” said Jace. “My adoptive father was a mass murderer. And I still worried about what he thought. It’s what we’re programmed to do. Your dad always seemed pretty great by comparison. ” “Sure, he likes you,” said Alec. “You’re heterosexual and have low expectations of father figures. ” “I think they’ll probably put that on my gravestone. ‘He Was Heterosexual and Had Low Expectations. ’?” Alec smiled—a brief, forced flash of a smile. Jace looked at him narrowly. “Are you sure you’re not mad? You seem kind of mad. ” Alec looked up at the sky overhead. There were no stars visible through the cloud cover, only a smear of yellowish black. “Not everything is about you. ” “If you’re not doing okay, you should tell me,” Jace said. “We’re all under stress, but we have to keep it together as much as we—” Alec whirled on him. There was disbelief in his eyes. “Doing okay? How would you be doing?” he demanded. “How would you be doing if it were Clary that Sebastian had taken? If it were her we were going to rescue, not knowing if she was dead or alive? How would you be doing?” Jace felt as if Alec had slapped him. He also felt as though he deserved it. It took him several tries before he could get out the next words: “I—I would be in pieces. ” Alec got to his feet. He was outlined against the bruise-colored sky, the glow of the broken moons reflecting off the ground; Jace could see every facet of his expression, everything he had been keeping pent up. He thought of the way Alec had killed the faerie knight in the Court; cold and quick and merciless. None of that was like Alec. And yet Jace had not paused to think about it, to think what drove that coldness: the hurt, the anger, the fear. “This,” Alec said, gesturing toward himself. “This is me in pieces. ” “Alec—” “I’m not like you,” Alec said. “I—I am not able to create the perfect facade at all times. I can tell jokes, I can try, but there are limits. I can’t—” Jace staggered to his feet. “But you don’t have to create a facade,” he said, bewildered. “You don’t have to pretend. You can—” “I can break down? We both know that’s not true. We need to hold it together, and all those years I watched you, I watched you hold it together, I watched you after you thought your father died, I watched you when you thought Clary was your sister, I watched you, and this is how you survived, so if I have to survive, then I’m going to do the same thing. ” “But you’re not like me,” Jace said. He felt as if the steady ground below him were cracking in half. When he was ten years old, he had built his life on the bedrock of the Lightwoods, Alec most of all. He had always thought that as parabatai they’d been there for each other, that he’d been there for Alec’s broken heart as much as Alec had been there for his, but he realized now, and horribly, that he had given little thought to Alec since the prisoners had been taken, had not thought how each hour, each minute, must be for him, not knowing if Magnus was alive or dead. “You’re better. ” Alec stared at him, his chest rising and falling quickly. “What did you imagine?” he asked abruptly. “When we came through into this world? I saw your expression when we found you. You didn’t envision ‘nothing. ’ ‘Nothing’ wouldn’t have made you look like that. ” Jace shook his head. “What did you see?” “I saw the Hall of Accords. There was a huge victory banquet, and everyone was there. Max—was there. And you, and Magnus, and everyone, and Dad was giving a speech about how I was the best warrior he’d ever known. . . . ” His voice trailed off. “I never thought I wanted to be the best warrior,” he said. “I always thought I was happy being the dark star to your supernova. I mean, you have the angel’s gift. I could train and train . . . I’d never be you. ” “You’d never want to,” Jace said. “That’s not you. ” Alec’s breathing had slowed. “I know,” he said. “I’m not jealous. I always knew, from the first, that everyone thought you were better than me. My dad thought it. The Clave thought it. Izzy and Max looked up to you as the great warrior they wanted to be like. But the day you asked me to be your parabatai, I knew you meant that you trusted me enough to ask me to help you. You were telling me that you weren’t the lone and self-sufficient warrior able to do everything alone. You needed me. So I realized that there was one person who didn’t assume you were better than me. You. ” “There all sorts of ways of being better,” Jace said. “I knew that even then. I might be physically stronger, but you have the truest heart of anyone I’ve ever known, and the strongest faith in other people, and in that way you are better than I could ever hope to be. ” Alec looked at him with surprised eyes. “The best thing Valentine ever did for me was send me to you,” Jace added. “Your parents, sure, but mainly you. You and Izzy and Max. If it hadn’t been for you, I would have been—like Sebastian. Wanting this. ” He gestured at the wasteland in front of them. “Wanting to be king of a wasteland of skulls and corpses. ” Jace broke off, squinting into the distance. “Did you see that?” Alec shook his head. “I don’t see anything. ” “Light, sparking off something. ” Jace searched among the shadows of the desert. He drew a seraph blade from his belt. Under the moonlight, even not yet activated, the clear adamas glowed with a ruby shine. “Wait here,” he said. “Guard the entrance. I’m going to look. ” “Jace—” Alec started, but Jace was already darting down the slope, springing from rock to rock. As he neared the foot of the rise, the rocks became paler in color, and began to crumble away under his feet as he landed on them. Eventually they gave way to powdery sand, dotted with massive arched boulders. There were a few growing things dotting the landscape: trees that looked as if they’d been fossilized in place by a sudden blast, a solar flare. Behind him was Alec and the entrance to the tunnels. Ahead was desolation. Jace began to pick his way carefully among the broken rocks and dead trees. As he moved, he saw it again, a darting spark, something alive among the deadness. He turned toward it, placing each foot carefully, directly, in front of the other. “Who’s there?” he called, then frowned. “Of course,” he added, addressing the darkness all around, “even I, as a Shadowhunter, have seen enough movies to know that anyone who yells ‘Who’s there?’ is going to be instantly killed. ” A noise echoed through the air—a gasp, a swallow of broken breath. Jace tensed and moved forward swiftly. There it was: a shadow, evolving out of the dark into a human shape. A woman, crouched and kneeling, wearing a pale robe stained with dirt and blood. She seemed to be weeping. Jace tightened his grip on the hilt of his blade. He had approached enough demons in his life who were pretending helplessness or who had otherwise disguised their true nature that he felt less sympathy than suspicion. “Dumah,” he whispered, and the blade flared up into light. He could see the woman more clearly now. She had long hair that fell to the ground and mixed with the scorched earth, and a circle of iron around her brow. Her hair was reddish in the shadows, the color of old blood, and for a moment, before she rose and turned to him, he thought of the Seelie Queen— But it was not her. This woman was a Shadowhunter. She was more than that. She wore the white robes of an Iron Sister, bound under her breasts, and her eyes were the flat orange of flames. Dark runes disfigured her cheeks and brow. Her hands were clasped over her chest. She released them now, and let them fall to her sides, and Jace felt the air in his lungs turn cold as he saw the massive wound in her chest, the blood spreading across the white fabric of her dress. “You know me, don’t you, Shadowhunter?” she said. “I am Sister Magdalena of the Iron Sisters, whom you murdered. ” Jace swallowed against his dry throat. “It’s not her. You’re a demon. ” She shook her head. “I was cursed, for my betrayal of the Clave. When you killed me, I came here. This is my Hell, and I wander it. Never healing, always bleeding. ” She pointed backward, and he saw the footsteps behind her that led to this place, the marks of bare feet outlined in blood. “This is what you did to me. ” “It wasn’t me,” he said hoarsely. She cocked her head to the side. “Wasn’t it?” she said. “Do you not remember?” And he did remember, the small artist’s studio in Paris, the Cup of adamas, Magdalena not expecting the attack as he drew his blade and stabbed her; the look on her face as she fell against the worktable, dying— Blood on his blade, on his hands, on his clothes. Not demon’s blood or ichor. Not the blood of an enemy. The blood of a Shadowhunter. “You remember,” said Magdalena, cocking her head to the side with a small smile. “How would a demon know the things I know, Jace Herondale?” “Not—my name,” Jace whispered. His blood felt hot in his veins, tightening his throat, choking off his words. He thought of the silver box with the birds on it, herons graceful in the air, the history of one of the great Shadowhunter families laid out in books and letters and heirlooms, and how he had felt as if he didn’t deserve to touch the contents. Her expression twitched, as if she didn’t quite understand what he had said, but she went on smoothly, stepping toward him across the broken ground. “Then what are you? You have no real claim on the name of Lightwood. Are you a Morgenstern? Like Jonathan?” Jace took a breath that scorched his throat like fire. His body was slick with sweat, his hands shaking. Everything in him screamed that he should lunge forward, should pierce the Magdalena creature with his seraph blade, but he kept seeing her falling, dying, in Paris, and himself standing over her, realizing what he had done, that he was a murderer, and how could you murder the same person twice— “You liked it, didn’t you?” she whispered. “Being bound to Jonathan, being one with him? It freed you. You can tell yourself now that everything you did was forced on you, that you weren’t the one acting, that you didn’t drive that blade into me, but we two know the truth. Lilith’s bond was only an excuse for you to do the things you desired to do anyway. ” Clary, he thought, achingly. If she were here, he would have her inexplicable conviction to cling to, her belief that he was intrinsically good, a belief that served as a fortress through which no doubt could travel. But she was not here and he was alone in a burned, dead land, the same dead land— “You saw it, didn’t you?” Magdalena hissed, and she was almost on him now, her eyes leaping and flaring orange and red. “This burned land, all destruction, and you ruling over it? That was your vision? The wish of your heart?” She caught at his wrist, and her voice rose, exultant, no longer quite human. “You think your dark secret is that you want to be like Jonathan, but I will tell you the true secret, the darkest secret. You already are. ” “No!” Jace cried, and brought up his blade, an arc of fire across the sky. She jerked back, and for a moment Jace thought that the fire from the blade had caught the tip of her robe alight, for flame exploded across his vision. He felt the burn and twist of veins and muscles in his arms, heard Magdalena’s scream turn guttural and inhuman. He staggered back— And realized the fire was pouring from him, that it had burst from his hands and fingertips in waves that coursed across the desert, blasting everything in front of him. He saw Magdalena twist and writhe, becoming something hideous, tentacled and repulsive, before shivering away to ashes with a scream. He saw the ground blacken and shimmer as he fell to his knees, his seraph blade melting into the flames that rose to circle him. He thought, I will burn to death here, as the fire roared across the plain, blotting out the sky. He was not afraid.